KIT Center Humans and Technology

Topic Work and Technology

The relation between work and technology is still defined in its fundamental principles by industrialisation. In a scientific perspective, it represents a complex system, which can be described and interpreted on three levels: a) Technology as the substitution of work; b) Technology as an objectification of work; c) Technology as a type of socialization of work.

While technology often defined working processes in industrial societies, post-industrial societies and knowledge economies have shifted these boundaries. In everyday working life, these three levels can no longer be separated from each other and form a qualitatively new form of Human-technology-relation in the process of work.

Technology as a means of work and production has always been of high relevance to the activity and qualification of workers. Changes in the working world were frequently induced by technology. An example is the replacement of hot types by computer-supported text processing, as a result of which the profession of the type-setter died out. Technological innovations have always been deemed the key mechanism of social modernization.

Technological change is considered a necessary prerequisite of economic growth rates and social wealth. In this respect, work mostly is a variable depending on technical development. When considering, however, that the profession of a text designer might possibly have survived technical change and that the honorable profession of a dentist so far has survived all innovations in medical technology, it has to be admitted that the forms and contents of professional work and qualification have certain inherent dynamics and do not simply represent consequences of technical innovation. This social constitution of work (reflected by e.g. professional images, collective conflicts, national legislation) is even more evident when studying the relationship between work and technology in international comparison: Under comparable technical conditions, different types of gainful work are encountered in the individual national states.